Who is Mr. Big? Where is Mr. Big?
For more than 11 years, Mr. Big, whoever you are, has been able to elude everyone. His name surfaced in 2005 following the bombings in Port-of-Spain and St James, which left one woman without a leg and several others nursing injuries.
Remember, the then Prime Minister Patrick Manning said that Mr. Big was behind the bombings and the police were going to get him. Police rounded up several persons but all were released.
Well, Mr. Big was not arrested and remains at large. Now Attorney General Faris Al Rari, 11 years later, says he is going after Mr. Big.
In Parliament on Monday, Al Rawi says Government will be bringing new legislation to take the proceeds away from those who benefit from crime in T&T and those who attempt to hide their ill-gotten gains from crime.
He made the comment during his contribution to the House of Representatives debate on the Finance (No 2) Bill, which was presented by Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
The legislation seeks to provide, among other measures, an amnesty for income tax payment for business owners.
Al-Rawi, however, said the bill would specifically target those who benefitted from criminal proceeds.
“Let me flag right now, we intend to unmask the beneficial owners. We intend to have equitable owners produced to the public so that you can no longer sequester assets using a legal nominee to hide a beneficial ownership.
“We are going behind the profit of crime by hitting the hardest zone possible,” the AG added.
Al-Rawi said owners would have to “explain their wealth or lose it” after the posed civil asset forfeiture legislation, which requires the support of the Opposition, was approved.
“We are going to say if you cannot explain your wealth you are going to lose your wealth.
“So every drug man who owns a massive mansion, every person who is involved in corruption, who on paper making $5 a month, $2,000 a month and has assets coming through their nose and can’t explain how it was acquired, all of those people, under the civil assets forfeiture regime, are going to be at risk of losing your wealth,” he said.
He added the matters would have to be determined in a civil court and by a judge.
“So there are significant effects to this and I am convinced that this is the approach T&T should have in gear,” he said.
In an apparent reference to the recent implementation of speed testing devices on the nation’s highways, Al-Rawi said:
“Imagine if six-speed guns can change the culture of T&T, to cause this country to slow down overnight, imagine what the specter of civil assets forfeiture would do.”
He added: “This is how we will grapple with corruption, this is how we will tell people you better be able to explain how you have acquired this (wealth).”
In explaining some of the issues they had to deal with, Al-Rawi said some 28,000 companies have not filed all of their annual returns and more than 29,000 had filed no annual returns at all. He said there was a need for new legislation to ensure that the so-called big fish were caught when crimes were committed in T&T.
He added: “I am putting T&T on notice that we are going to aggressively move behind all those defaulting companies in a very tight matrix approach.”
Al-Rawi said defaulting companies would face severe penalties and those which failed to file their returns would be struck off the register, adding that amendments to the Company’s Act and the FIU Act are coming.
It is exactly 11 years since the dustbin bomber struck and created panic in Port-of-Spain and environs. According to then Prime Minister Patrick Manning, that person was referred to as Mr. Big. Who is this Mr. Big? He has never been caught and no one knows for sure to whom the Prime Minister was referring.
We have grown accustomed to almost anything in T&T. From an army mutiny in 1970 to the attempted coup in 1990, the people are now getting accustomed to crime every day. But a series of bombings in Port-of-Spain and environs sent the country into panic mode in 2005. Several people were injured, and one woman, Yvonne McIvor, lost a leg in the first blast.
It is 11 years since the dustbin bomber struck and created panic in Port-of-Spain and environs. According to Manning, that person was referred to as Mr. Big. Who is this Mr. Big? He has never been caught and no one knows for sure to whom the Prime Minister was referring.
The first attack took place on July 11, 2005. It was just after 2 pm when Port-of-Spain was turned into a battle zone. The scene was Frederick Street. People were going about their normal business on a Monday afternoon. No one saw anything, but someone, maybe a homeless person, was hired to plant an explosive device in a dustbin in front of Maraj Jewellers.
All of a sudden, boom, and pedestrians, motorists and shoppers were caught offside. Within seconds, there was blood everywhere. People were lying down on the street, some of them crying. At the time, no one knew what had happened. The police and the ambulance arrived on the scene. The area was cordoned off, and the news and rumors spread very rapidly.
Yvonne McIvor was seriously injured. It took hours before someone knew what had happened.
Then Commissioner of Police, Trevor Paul, was attending an anti-terrorist conference in Tobago. He flew to Trinidad by helicopter and landed on the empty area opposite to the People’s Mall.
The landing helicopter blew away vital evidence from the crime scene. On August 10, 2005, the second blast went off, this time on George Street, Port-of-Spain. The third took place on September 10 at KFC, Independence Square. By this time, the city was in panic.
The bomber was operating on a monthly schedule. In the space of two months, he had struck three times. The security forces were on alert, and there were increased patrols in and around Port-of-Spain. Suspicious people were stopped and searched, garbage bins were rolled over as the security forces tried to catch the perpetrators.
As the situation calmed in Port-of-Spain, the bomber struck again, outside Smokey and Bunty, Western Main Road, St James.
It was a busy Friday night, October 14, when the explosive device went off near a TSTT phone booth. The booth was destroyed, and ten people were injured. They were taken to Port-of-Spain General Hospital. St James was in panic, the police cordoned off the place, and a number of searches were made.
The police questioned two suspects in connection with the four blasts, one of them being “community leader” Sean “Bill” Francis, who was gunned down in Vegas, Morvant, in 2009. Prime Minister Manning, speaking in the House of Representatives on October 17, 2009, said he had a good idea who Mr. Big was in relation to the bombings.
But he said the authorities lacked the evidence to take action at that time. Days later, then Minister of National Security Martin Joseph said what Manning really said was that he knew who Mr. Big was, but he did not know the identity of the bomber.
Investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in Port-of-Spain revealed that the bomber did not use a timing device to detonate the bombs. The bomber, according to reports, used chemicals, which when mixed together cause a violent reaction, leading to an explosion. Sources said the chemicals were placed in plastic bottles in the steel bins, and within three to five minutes, they went off.
They were intended to cause reaction where dustbin particles would fly in all directions, injuring people nearby. The sources said the materials used in the bombs were easily bought off the shelf. The devices used in those bombings, according to the sources, were not built to take lives, but to create chaos in a community.
Then, who were building these devices? Who had an axe to grind in the country? Who wanted to destabilize T&T?
Investigators said the people who built the devices had two things in mind—they wanted to create chaos, and secondly, they were checking the response time of the emergency services.
They claimed that people who were trained in making bombs could have been behind the attacks. One thing is certain—no one saw the bomber place anything in these places. Another thing is certain, the police do not have a clue as to who did it and why.
Even the then Prime Minister’s theory of Mr. Big, is now far-fetched as he never explained in later years why he suspected that person.